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Supreme Court Upholds Case Against Man Arrested For Stealing Two Cars in Two Days

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A man who was charged with stealing a car in Fremont County while being held on another car theft charge in Natrona County was properly tried for the crime, Wyoming’s Supreme Court has ruled.

The court upheld the convictions of Ronald Wayne Crebs III, rejecting his arguments that Fremont County prosecutors took too long to bring him to trial in January 2020 on charges stemming from the October 2017 incident.

According to the opinion, written by Justice Kari Gray, Crebs was arrested on Oct. 2, 2017, after leading Fremont County Sheriff’s Office officers on a high-speed chase from Fremont County to Natrona County.

Crebs, who was held in the Natrona County Detention Center after his arrest, admitted to stealing the car in Fremont County and to stealing another one the day before in Natrona County.

Crebs was charged by Natrona County authorities on Oct. 4, 2017, and jailed pending his trial. On Dec. 7, 2017, Fremont County authorities charged Crebs with the vehicle theft in their county and asked that they be notified if Crebs was released from the Natrona County jail so they could serve him with an arrest warrant.

After eight months in jail, Crebs pleaded guilty in Natrona County and was sentenced to up to seven years in prison. 

In April 2019, about 18 months after his arrest in Natrona County, Crebs asked that the charges against him in Fremont County be dismissed because officials there had not acted on the charges, violating his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Fremont County officials then began the process to put Crebs on trial.

In January of this year, more than two years after his initial arrest, Crebs pleaded guilty to the Fremont County car theft on the condition he could pursue his claim that Fremont County officials violated his rights to a speedy trial.

Justices found that the 761-day delay in holding Crebs’ Fremont County trial did merit a review.

However, justices also ruled that Crebs was responsible for at least part of that delay because of his trial in Natrona County.

“Mr. Crebs violated the laws in multiple counties and bears the burden of the delay caused by his prosecution in another county,” the ruling said.

The ruling also said that Fremont County authorities, through negligence, failed to act as quickly as they could have in Crebs’ trial, but justices also found that Crebs failed to prove that failure prejudiced the case against him.

“Our ultimate inquiry in assessing a speedy trial claim is whether the delay ‘substantially impaired the right of the accused to a fair trial,’” the opinion said. “Mr. Crebs’ right to a fair trial was not impaired.”

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Forrest Fenn Treasure Hunter Indicted For Damaging Yellowstone Cemetery

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man who was on the hunt for the treasure chest buried by the late Forrest Fenn was indicted last month for damage he caused to Yellowstone National Park.

Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, of Syracuse, Utah, was found digging in the historic Fort Yellowstone Cemetery and was indicted on Sept. 16 on charges of excavating or trafficking in archeological resources and injury or depredation to U.S. property, according to a release from Yellowstone on Thursday.

He claimed he was looking for Fenn’s treasure, a chest containing gold and jewels the author buried in 2010 that supposedly found earlier this year in Wyoming. The lucky finder has still not been identified. Fenn died this year, after the treasure was found.

The treasure was found in early June after more than 10 years of being hidden. A previous report only said that the treasure finder was an anonymous man from “back East” who sent Fenn a picture of the chest to prove he actually found it.

poem in Fenn’s book “The Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir” included nine clues on where to find the treasure. Fenn said the treasure was contained in a 12th-century bronze chest that weighed 20 pounds by itself and was filled with 22 pounds of gold coins, gold nuggets and other valuables.

At least four people died in search of Fenn’s treasure over the years.

The first count of the indictment alleged Craythorn knowingly and unlawfully excavated, removed, damaged, altered and defaced and attempted to deface archeological resource in the cemetery between Oct. 1, 2019 and May 24.

The second count charged Craythorn with willfully damaging and committing depredation against property belonging to the U.S.

Craythorn appeared in court on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to the two charges. His trial is set for December.

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Driver, Perhaps With No Functioning Brain, Arrested After Attempting to Elude Troopers In Stolen Vehicle

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If there is a criminal’s handbook, you would think it would explain that trying to elude the Wyoming Highway Patrol on a remote stretch of interstate highway in Wyoming that has few exits (all of which pretty much lead to nowhere) has a success rate of basically zero.

Rapid City, South Dakota, resident Tinan Sky Trudell apparently skipped that chapter (if the handbook exists) and is now in custody following a pursuit that took place on I-25 Tuesday morning.

Turns out a trooper identified a stolen vehicle traveling on the interstate and attempted to pull the car over.

The driver of the 2017 Hyundai Veloster apparently did not agree to be pulled over and instead gunned the car, thinking she could outrun the Wyoming Highway Patrol despite being on a road with very few options.

While we have never heard of a Hyundai Veloster before, it became apparent after one quick Google search that it would not fare well in an off-roading situation.

The driver was south of Wheatland (and heading south) meaning there were only a handful of exits in the 70 miles to Cheyenne thereby making the prospects for escape likely dim — unless the vehicle could sprout wings.

We again resorted to Google and found out that on-demand wings were not an option in a 2017 Hyundai Veloster.

How did it play out?

Like they all do. The Highway Patrol deployed spike strips. The car’s tires deflated. The driver, apparently thinking there was still a way out, kept going on the vehicle’s rims.

The trooper attempted a Tactical Vehicle Intervention (TVI) maneuver and the stolen vehicle came to a stop.

At which point the driver apparently gave up.

Now Trudell faces a laundry list of charges including: possession of a controlled substance (shocker), possession of a stolen vehicle, fleeing to elude, reckless driving, speeding, and other traffic-related offenses.

Note: All suspects are presumed innocent until proved guilty.

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Gillette Fugitives Arrested In Utah After Shootout With Police

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette couple tracked with the assistance of a Cody bond company was arrested in Utah last week after engaging in a “Bonnie and Clyde”-like three-state road trip before shooting at officers and fleeing to a nearby woods where they hid out for about 36 hours before finally apprehended.

Brett Gilman Johnson, 50, and Jamie Carol Cleghorn-Wheeler, 42 are now facing charges of attempted aggravated murder, obstruction of justice, discharging of firearms, felon in possession of a dangerous weapon, criminal trespass, and forgery. Additionally, Johnson is facing a charge of attempted first-degree murder. Both could receive life imprisonment for their alleged crimes.

Sanpete County, Utah, Sheriff Brian Nielson said two of his deputies and a local police chief were serving a warrant for arrest to a trailer the couple were staying at in Milburn, Utah, about 100 miles south of Salt Lake City. 

As they approached the door, shots were fired at the officers. The officers did not return fire and the two were able to escape out the back of the residence, Nielson said.

When SWAT teams found them in some scrub oak woods nearby, Sanpete County District Attorney Kevin Daniels said they surrendered without a fight. 

Nielson said the two had been engaging in “evasion techniques” to avoid arrest while ATVs, drones, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft were employed in the manhunt.

Boone Tidwell, a Cody man who runs Freedom Fighter Bail Bonds with his wife Shirley, is Johnson’s bonding agent. 

His employee, Casper resident James Pulver, had been working to track the pair down in Utah and was on the phone with Tidwell when the shots were fired.

“He (Pulver) said it was the scariest thing he had ever been around,” Shirley Tidwell said.

Johnson and Cleghorn-Wheeler face charges in Campbell County in connection with the September burglary of 17 storage units and the theft of 18 firearms, as well as for possessing 25 grams of meth and 23 grams of marijuana.

Daniels said the two were found with forgery devices and it is believed they were involved in a “symbiotic business” of selling meth and forgery that brought them to Montana and Elko, Nevada, before they arrived in to Sanpete.

Boone Tidwell said he made hundreds of phone calls and sent hundreds of texts during the period leading up to the shooting in his efforts to track Johnson. 

From the moment the Tidwells were tipped off about the couple’s flight from Gillette, they stayed in constant pursuit of Johnson, performing most of the work from Cody.

“Once you start the hunt you can’t stop it until it’s finished,” Boone Tidwell said.

Boone Tidwell said they refused to bond Cleghorn-Wheeler because of a criminal record that included police pursuits, fraud and felony warrants.

“Thinking if she was in jail we were good with him,” Tidwell said, they agreed to insure a $25,000 cash/surety bond for Johnson.

But another bonding company decided to insure Cleghorn-Wheeler and an informant for the Tidwells soon alerted them the couple had skipped town. 

“They said, ‘They’re not going to go alive. They’re going to shoot the cops and take their own lives,’” Boone Tidwell said. “Everything told to us came true.”

Despite assurances from Johnson he had not fled Campbell County, the facts spoke for themselves when he and Cleghorn-Wheeler both failed to show up in court Sept. 30.

The two had their first appearance in Sanpete County court on Wednesday and are being held without bail.

“The cooperation from Utah law enforcement was excellent,” Boone Tidwell said. “They absolutely embraced our guy (Pulver).”

Nielson said apprehending the two involved coordination from hundreds of law enforcement personnel and various agencies including the FBI, Utah Highway Patrol, Utah County Sheriff’s Office and various police agencies along with the Utah Department of Corrections and Division of Wildlife Resources.

“Not only to protect law enforcement but to protect the community if they escaped this area and there was contact with members of the public,” he said.

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Cody Man Tackled In Court After Arrested For Kicking, Spraying Cop With Energy Drink

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By Leo Wolfson, Cowboy State Daily

Cody resident Frank Denbow is facing a felony charge for allegedly kicking a police officer in his chest and spraying him with a carbonated energy drink. 

And the action didn’t stop when he had his first hearing in Park County Circuit Court on Tuesday, as he was tackled by sheriff’s deputies as the hearing ended.

It was not clear why deputies forced Denbow to the ground during his hearing. According to the Park County Sheriff’s Office, “that report is not yet complete and there is no information available at this time.”

The takedown was the climax to a hearing in Cody on Tuesday during which Denbow became increasingly combative.

During his initial hearing, Denbow, 35, became progressively more disruptive, berating Judge Bruce Waters and Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Larry Eichele, at one point ordering Eichele to “speak up.

“You’re not prepared son,” Denbow told Eichele at one point when the attorney paused to look at his paperwork.

Denbow, 35, is facing a felony charge for allegedly kicking a police officer in his chest and spraying him with a carbonated energy drink during an encounter with police Saturday. 

Interference with a peace officer to cause bodily injury in Wyoming carries up to 10 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.

Denbow’s court appearance followed his confrontation with police Saturday.

As police approached Denbow on the street to discuss numerous reported incidents that allegedly involved him, Denbow allegedly raised his digital camera toward Cody Police Officer Patrick Geraghty in a manner that suggested he was taking photos or video of the confrontation.

“Denbow then attempted to wave down a miscellaneous vehicle passing, attempting to get a ride from the driver. The vehicle’s driver sped off out of the area,” Geraghty wrote in his report.

After Denbow admitted to speaking to someone who accused him of trespassing earlier in the day, he started to shake up his energy drink with his right hand.

“You know what’s about to happen,” Denbow said, according to Geraghty.

When Denbow opened the beverage, he changed positions to spray the officer in his eyes, mouth and uniform, Geraghty wrote.

“The amount of liquid that was sprayed into my eyes temporarily blinded me,” his report said.

After securing Denbow by his wrist, Geraghty said the suspect broke free as he was being escorted to the police vehicle, “due to the amount of slippery liquid on his person.”

Geraghty said Denbow then jumped up and kicked him in his chest. In the ensuing struggle, Denbow broke Geraghty’s body camera chest mount with another kick.

Police made contact with Denbow because of six incidents he was accused of taking part in from early Saturday morning through the afternoon. 

Allegations included erratic driving, driving his Jeep onto a bar patio, refusing to leave a gas station; Entering a pool at Cody’s Paul Stock Aquatic and Recreation Center fully clothed; Leaving his vehicle illegally parked in a hotel awning area, and trespassing into a tow lot to retrieve items from his vehicle that was impounded after the hotel parking incident.

Denbow was assessed a $10,000 cash-only bond on Tuesday. 

Once described as “a fixture of New York’s tech scene” in a 2019 New York Times article, Denbow is featured on the website of Digital Summit, a national organization that hosts conferences for digital marketers.

Denbow, who is listed as a speaker for the organization, founded a platform for producing top-quality custom apparel for companies and influencers.

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Man Charged With Transporting Meth After Being Pulled Over For Going 92MPH

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If there is a criminal’s handbook, you would think there would be a section that explained if you are transporting meth across Wyoming, it would be advisable not to drive 92 mph while smoking marijuana.

Because if you do that, you might as well install neon lights on the outside of your car spelling out “I’m an idiot”.

Dickinson, North Dakota, resident Jerry Dawson apparently skipped that chapter (if the handbook exists) because he and his passenger Bobby Dickerson of Bakersfield, California, were pulled over on Oct. 13 for allegedly doing exactly that.

Dickerson drew more attention to himself by by attempting to run away (allegedly) from the troopers once they were pulled over.

The problem there is they were 23 miles outside of Gillette. So there really wasn’t anywhere to run away to. And, no surprise to anyone, he was apprehended in a nearby field.

What tipped the Highway Patrol off? Outside of going 22 mph over the speed limit, the troopers allegedly saw a marijuana bud on the passenger seat and could smell the odor of burnt marijuana.

“This prompted a search of the car.  In the trunk of the Chrysler, troopers located approximately 2 pounds of methamphetamine,” the Highway Patrol reported.

Dawson and Dickerson have been charged with misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, felony possession of a controlled substance, and felony possession with intent to deliver.

No word if Dickerson was also charged with attempting to flee from an officer.

The methamphetamine is believed to have originated out of Las Vegas, Nevada, with a final destination of North Dakota. 

Note: All suspects are presumed innocent until proved guilty.

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911 Call, Tox Reports Released In Fatal South Dakota AG Crash

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Jason Ravnsborg quickly told the 911 dispatcher he hit “something…that was in the middle of the road” when he called for help on Sept. 12, according to a transcript of the call released recently by officials.

The South Dakota attorney general told the dispatcher he wasn’t sure what he hit, but his car had been severely damaged upon impact.

“I hit something,” he said to the dispatcher.

The next day, Ravnsborg discovered he hit a person, 55-year-old Joseph Boever, who had died sometime after being struck by the attorney general’s vehicle.

The Sept. 12 accident is still under investigation by a number of authorities, including a Wyoming crash reconstruction expert and the North Dakota Bureau of Investigation, according to The Associated Press.

The state’s Department of Public Safety released three toxicology reports, the 911 call and the transcript of the call this week.

In the 911 call, the dispatcher asked Ravnsborg if he possibly struck a deer and he responded that he did not know, later adding that it could have been a deer and that it was right in the roadway.

The toxicology reports showed no drugs or alcohol were found in Ravnsborg’s system, although it should be noted that he took his first toxicology screening more than 12 hours after the collision.

After the crash, Ravnsborg issued a statement reiterating that he hadn’t been drinking while at an event in Redfield, South Dakota, before driving home to Pierre. He was alone in his vehicle.

“I didn’t see what I hit and stopped my vehicle immediately to investigate,” he said in the statement.

The Hyde County Sheriff arrived on scene to assess the damage to the AG’s vehicle and look for the deer.

Neither the sheriff nor Ravnsborg saw Boever’s body in the ditch, even though Ravnsborg used his cell phone flashlight to search the area.

Ravnsborg borrowed the sheriff’s personal vehicle to drive back to Pierre that night.

He returned to the scene of the crash the following morning on his way to return the sheriff’s vehicle. He and an employee stopped to look for the animal again, but instead found Boever’s body nearby.

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Wyoming Mail Carrier Faces Jail After Allegedly Throwing Away Voter Guides

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A mail carrier in Fremont County faces up to two years in jail after being accused of throwing away mail, including voter guides, sent to residents of South Pass City and Atlantic City.

Zecharia Morgan is charged with knowingly destroying mail and “desertion of mails” after allegedly dumping voter guides prepared by the Wyoming League of Women Voters into a trash can in South Pass in September.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court, Morgan delivered mail to the communities for a contractor of the U.S. Postal Service.

An affidavit filed by Christopher Lucas, a U.S. Postal inspector, said a South Pass resident called the postmaster in Lander in mid-September to report she had seen a mail carrier “discarding mail in a trash can.”

On Oct. 1, another postal customer called the Lander postmaster to complain that she had not received a the League of Women Voters election guide sent to all postal customers in the communities by “Every Door Direct Mail.”

The first postal customer told the inspector “she also remembered seeing the Voter’s Guide in the trash can” and had seen other bulk mail pieces in the trash as well in the past, the affidavit said.

“The customer empties the trash can and has seen bundles of magazines and other (direct mail) in the trash can,” the affidavit said. “The customer stated she was aware of three or four times when bundles of mail were discovered in the trash can.”

Morgan told the Lander postmaster that he did not deliver the voter guides because “the boxes are always stuffed full.”

When interviewed by the inspector, Morgan admitted to throwing away the voter guides and to disposing of other direct mail as well between six and eight times since he had been employed in May, the affidavit said.

The affidavit said Morgan reported he did not throw away any first class mail sent to specific recipients except for some pornographic material.

“Morgan stated he had also thrown away pornographic material in the past, as he was not comfortable delivering it,” the affidavit said.

The charges of destruction of mail and “desertion of mails” both carry sentences of up to one year in jail and fines of up to $100,000.

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Torrington PD: Stop Vandalizing, Stealing Political Signs

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Torrington Police Department has had to get involved in politics this week.

Over the last couple of weekends, the department has received several reports from community members who have had their political signs stolen or vandalized.

The department has also investigated multiple incidents of politically-motivated graffiti that has damaged public property in Torrington. Police believe these incidents have happened during the late evening and early morning hours.

“Just because our political candidates don’t get along, doesn’t mean we can’t take care of each other,” the department said in the post. “The constitutional freedoms that allow us to express ourselves and support political candidates of our choosing are important parts of our democracy.”

The post added that if the community and world at large wanted to continue enjoying those constitutional freedoms, people must maintain an environment that allows for health discussions, “rather than trying to drown out opinions that are different than our own.”

The department is asking for the community’s help in addressing the crimes, adding people should call 911 (if there is an emergency) or the non-emergency line to report information about the vandalizations.

“Thank you for helping us to keep Torrington a great place to live!” the post concluded.

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Wyoming Stimulant Use Below National Average, But Arrests, Deaths On The Rise

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The use of stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine among Wyoming’s residents is below or the same as the national average, according to a University of Wyoming study.

However, the consequences of stimulant use appear to be on the rise in the state, according to the study by the university’s Survey and Analysis Center, indicating that more data needs to be collected on the issue.

“A disconnect exists between these two trends and filling data gaps may help explain these differences,” concluded the study titled “Telling the Story of Stimulant Use in Wyoming.” “More information concerning risk factors related to stimulant use would offer a better understanding of the differences between consumption and consequences.”

The study was prepared at the request of the Wyoming State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup, which provides public health officials with information they can use to set policies.

The study said the SEOW’s membership in 2019 and 2020 became concerned that stimulant use, amphetamines and methamphetamine in particular, was increasing across the state.

The Survey and Analysis Center collected data from 2018 from various sources to quantify stimulant use and consequences such as arrests and overdoses.

The SAC found that according to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health, 1.3% of Wyoming’s residents reported using cocaine at some point in the past year, compared to a national average of 2.1%.

For methamphetamine use, the national survey found that 0.6% of Wyoming’s population had used the drug on one or more occasions in the past year, the same percentage as was seen nationally.

Among high school students, the Wyoming Prevent Needs Assessment found that 0.5% of students reported using methamphetamine in the past 30 days, while 0.9% admitted to using cocaine.

Of the University of Wyoming students questioned as part of the National College Health Assessment, 0.9% said they used methamphetamine in the last 30 days, but 3.4% admitted to using some other kind of amphetamine and 4.8% said they had used a prescription stimulant.

“The NCHA at UW suggests that other types of stimulants may be used at higher rates than methamphetamine,” the study concluded.

However, consequences from the use of stimulants, such as arrests and overdoses, have been increasing, the study said.

Its review of arrest data from the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police showed the number of methamphetamine-related arrests in Wyoming increased from 823 in 2014 to 1,404 in 2018.

The number of stimulant-related fatal overdoses also increased during that period, the report said, growing from a rate of 0.68 per 100,000 residents between 2008 and 2012 to 3.04 per 100,000 from 2014 to 2018.

The number of people admitted to state-funded abuse disorder treatment centers for treatment of methamphetamine use also increased dramatically from 2013 to 2018, the study said, growing from 1,165 to 2,235.

However, the number of people seeking treatment for cocaine use fell from 325 to 266 during the same period, while those seeking treatment for the use of other amphetamines dropped from 475 to 77, the report said.

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